The Double Bind of Performance Anxiety

Performance AnxietyDo you ever suffer from performance anxiety? Most of us do at times.

It seems to me that people’s communication difficulties can quite often be summed up as follows:

  1. They hold a fixed image of what excellence looks like – a platonic ideal if you like.
  2. They have a negative image of their own performance that doesn’t match up to the ideal.
  3. They have decided that their performance has got to look like their ideal of excellence – only it doesn’t.

Result: Impasse. They’re stuck.

People tend to express stuckness by freezing. They are literally petrified (turned to stone). When you’re petrified, your body becomes rigid and unbending; your voice become inflexible and monotonous, and your brain becomes inelastic and turgid.

Many react to freezing by trying very hard, but the effort results in stiffness and rigidity nonetheless. Their over-reliance on preparation and control always produces a predictable and inflexible delivery.

What do the best performers do?

So what might we learn from the best performers? Well, let’s acknowledge first of all, they’re not immune to fear – far from it, there are innumerable examples of brilliant performers who suffer from severe stage fright – I recount some of them in my books. But they don’t insist on a particular ideal of perfection, so they’re not caught in that double bind of gotta/can’t.

The best performers leap into their fear, which means letting go of expectation, and accepting that today’s performance – however it turns out – is today’s, maybe the best or maybe not, but unique and unrepeatable.

So, for example, Dame Judy Dench doesn’t have a set prepared way of performing and prefers live performance to film just because it isn’t fixed. An interviewer suggested to her that the secret to it all is preparation, and she disagreed:

No, I like to feel real fear. … It’s to do with freefalling. I think that’s exactly what it is.

She added,

I find it too hard to cope (in film) with that idea that you can’t change it. I love the way in theatre that you can change it every night. (from an interview with Rim Adams in The Observer)

In my book Butterflies and Sweaty Palms, I record driving some actors to a filming session and watching Monty Python comedian John Cleese record a business video for Video Arts. The same short scene was repeated several times, and each time Cleese played his part a little differently, every time wonderfully funny. His variations kept the rest of the cast on their toes, and at times they struggled to keep a straight face as he produced an unexpected comic twist or trick of timing. On one take, no one could hold it any longer, and the scene collapsed into general laughter. They achieved some great takes that day.

Performing well is very different from getting it right. It’s an act of creation – re-creation if you like – and however consistent the content every performance is different. Top musicians understand this well. There’s no definitive performance; today’s performance is today’s; tomorrow’s belongs to tomorrow – however familiar, it’s all exploration; it’s all play.

Stuckness in life

Now that translates into life too. In the charming novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, the protagonist Jean Perdu remains stuck for 20 years, unable to love again because of a disastrous love affair  in his youth. Things change only when at last he’s able to look at what happened in the face and therefore let go.

An impasse is like a syllogism that doesn’t work:

I left my boyfriend for my career, and good people don’t do that.

I’m a good person.

I did that.

Just another variation on gotta/can’t.

So long as we cling to certainty about the rightness of our thinking, the logic doesn’t work, and we can’t look at the situation square on without confusion and suffering. So we don’t look, and a part of us numbs down, which means one part less for loving and caring. Such a situation can endure for decades – even a lifetime – until we dare to look it directly in the face.

No wonder fairy stories and legends abound with themes of being turned into stone or killed by looking – Medusa, the basilisk … We are terrified to look at our thinking.

So, what’s wrong with the thinking that gets us stuck?

1. Dead seriousness – I/we take ourselves too seriously.

Lighten up – it definitely won’t hurt, and it’ll probably greatly improve your every endeavour. “The only difference between a wise man and a fool is that the wise man knows he’s playing,” said Fritz Perls.

2. Insistence on perfection or rightness

The king of pianists, Vladimir Horowitz, said that perfection itself is imperfection. If perfection is just getting the right notes or words in the right order, of course it’s imperfection; it’s only a fraction of the story when you’re communicating – and living. Concentrate on the rest – energy, feeling, connection, desire, empathy, understanding… anything but correctness in fact!

3. Clinging on – to control, practice, preparation, consistency, the idea that it’s got to be a particular way for whatever reason

Let go – accept whatever transpires; get your ego out of the way. Or as Brene Brown, who often puts things well, says: “What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” Better a vulnerable living-breathing-human-being than an error-free-robot every time.

Enjoy the dance!

Go well,

Judy

 

OTHER THOUGHTS

Voice of Influence Workshop

Over the years this 2-day workshop has made a big difference to people.  I found the course fabulous, probably the best course I’ve been on. Got so much from it. wrote Susan Nimmo RBS.  Numerous other testimonials here. I continue to get enquiries about the course and would like very much to run it again, but need someone to get people together and organise it. If that’s you, let me know! If you want to express your interest in attending the course, likewise let me know.

My Books

If you’ve found today’s blog interesting, you may like to follow up the topic in my book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms in book or e-form.

All my books are about communication, so here are the rest!

The Art of Conversation
Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

(Un)Stuck

By the way, there’s a free download for educators of a neat 9-page story book called (Un) Stuck here – probably not intended for the general reader but relevant to many of us just the same.

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Need an impartial listening ear?Decision time? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

The Miracle of Voice

Is your voice too quiet, boring, untuneful or effortful? It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Presencing Institute

Have you heard of the Presencing Institute, based at MIT? Some great resources, courses, videos, ideas – have a look.

Download some of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

Are you cool, calm and collected?

IMG_4820Wouldn’t it be good to be productive and successful all the time
and deal with everything calmly?

Well, yes. But …

That absorbing author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, said something that struck me this week: “Life doesn’t always follow an ideology,” she said, “You might believe in certain things and life gets in and things just become messy. You know?”

I know. I often felt like that during February, which can be a flat month for many. I worked hard at this and that; I fulfilled family responsibilities a bit here and a bit there; I felt over-worked one week and slightly wearied the next, and I experienced satisfaction at one minute and dissatisfaction the next. What happened to motivation, regular meditation, disciplined writing, order and direction? How did life get messy while my back was turned? Perhaps you’ve been in this situation yourself?

Cool, calm and collected

Oh, to be cool, calm and collected all the time!  I like the word “collected” – it’s such an old-fashioned term, and I like the image it conjures of all the disparate parts of a person being gathered up to make a congruent whole.

Though I don’t fully understand the meaning of “collected”, I know exactly what the opposite feels like. It’s that disjointed feeling as if bits of the self have been allowed to split off and pull in different directions; and life gets messy.

Grey patches

Why is it that life moves forward purposefully at one time, and then doesn’t? “Well, why not?” is one answer. Even the most brilliant artists, scientists  and leaders don’t accomplish without pause. I’ve been reading the poems of Mary Oliver recently (here’s a fascinating interview about her work). She has had a few hundred poems published in her long life, but there was a decade between her first book and her second, then six more years before her third. I don’t know how long it takes to write a poem, but I reckon that gives time for a lot of living in between.

We are easily seduced by witnessing only the highlights of other people’s existence into thinking that their lives are one long flow of glorious accomplishment. Even Facebook can give the false impression that a friend’s life is a continuous celebration of joy and success.

Mary Oliver speaks of the problem of purposeful living in one of her best-known poems, The Summer Dayin which she describes in detail a grasshopper that has landed on her hand and talks of strolling idly through fields all day. She concludes,

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Chief gremlin

So what to do about those “non-flow” times?  Mary Oliver doesn’t provide the answer, though she challenges with her question – as if to say, “So, I strolled through the fields all day and paid attention… SO? What else should I have done?!”

I recognise my own chief disintegration gremlin – it’s that old friend “ought”. “Ought” is brilliant at disrupting any activity. I start on a piece of writing that interests me, and ten minutes in, “ought” taps me on the shoulder, “You ought to be getting on with that course manual, don’t you think?” I switch task and have only just started on the manual when I feel another tap, “Oughtn’t you phone your son now before he gets to work?” Having failed to get through on the phone, I get another poke, “Getting frustrated are you? You ought to be more disciplined about meditating every day and then you’d be calmer, don’t you agree?” On it goes and my day becomes ever more fragmented.

Collecting myself

The funny thing is, I do know how to collect myself. Here’s one example: a while ago, I went on a peace of mind retreat to Mt Abu in India, where much of each day was spend in quiet meditation or other thoughtful pursuits. Towards the end of my time there, two different people invited me to join them in an activity on the same afternoon. Both invitations felt important in different ways, and I found myself worrying, unable to decide which to accept. In the atmosphere of Mt Abu, instead of telling myself negative stories or continuing to run through all the pros and cons, let alone all the oughts and shoulds, of the situation, I stopped and sat on a low wall, and cleared my thoughts for a few tranquil moments. Then I stood up and knew exactly what I was going to do – cool, calm and collected. How simple.

I think that a part of collecting yourself is knowing – trusting – that you cannot get life wrong – that it’s alright, that you will get through, whatever you choose. As Galway Kinnell tells us in his famous prayer of the three is’s:

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

And you collect yourself and know that whatever happens is okay – you want “what is”. Dark February, windy March, primroses in April – it’s all completely and entirely okay.

 

ALSO TO SHARE 

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Need a nudge? Decision time? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

The Miracle of Voice

It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource we have in our voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. . Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download some of my E-courses (I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

My Books

The Art of Conversation
Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s much more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have satisfying and buzzy conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
Subtitle: 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence. It’s about WHAT to do if you’re scared. And don’t worry – we’re ALL scared at times.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Workshops

Want some help in your organisation on communicating, presenting, voice, confidence, NLP or coaching? My workshops are practical, energising and effective. Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

Have a good month.

Go well,

Judy

Worry? What me?

Five LIve

As I sat at my laptop a couple of days ago I thought I might write about that mild angst you sometimes wake up with that can colour your whole day – you know the kind of thing …

I was just getting going when the phone rang. It was a young guy from BBC Five Live. Had I seen the latest Telegraph article on whether conversation is dead and whether it matters? Would I agree to be interviewed via Skype on their programme later that day at 5.25 PM? Yes, I would.

He forwarded the article and twenty minutes later called me back to hear my first ideas on the subject. No problem at all … yet I felt a mild angst, and for the rest of the day, I thought and worried about the interview at fairly frequent intervals.

By 5 PM I was already linked on Skype, and tuned-in to Five Live, a channel I’ve never knowingly listened to before – the pace was fast, the tone unrelentingly young and energetic…

At 5.20 I was put on stand-by, and could hear the programme through their speakers. At 5.23, a voice broke through,

“Judy? Okay if we announce you as “Judy Apps, Communications Expert and author of The Art of Conversation?
Yes, that’s f…” He was gone.

“COMMUNICATIONS EXPERT?” (said my internal voice in capital letters). Expert? (bold, underlined, question mark). Expert? No pressure then …

5.24. One minute to go. The journalist is currently interviewing a member of parliament from the Labour Conference, and the debate is getting quite lively: “So you are a Socialist?” “Yes, we’re all Socialists here,” … A new voice breaks in and I suddenly realise it’s for me – okay, go, go, this now  is it!

“Sorry, Judy,” says the disembodied voice, “This Conference interview is running over. We’ll try to fit you in some time during the next hour. We’ll call you when we’re ready.”

What? Any old time during the next hour?

Okay, keep the energy going … I’m just making a cup of tea when the phone rings. It’s my original young man of the morning with the briefest of messages.

“Hi-Judy-sorry-we’ve-pulled-your-item-perhaps-call-you-another-time-Bye.”

Oh. Was that it? That was indeed it.

I went and played the piano – Beethoven, with loads of furious energy and quite a lot of wrong notes – until I felt better; (vigorous shaking being a well-known large animal strategy for dissipating stress – as Peter Levine tells us in Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.

Well, what a funny day! I’d spent much of it focused on the future. And the future had laughed at me: “Didn’t expect that outcome, did you?!”

Isn’t it the strangest thing – to use nervous energy on what hasn’t happened yet, and certainly won’t turn out precisely the way you’re imagining it anyway? It’s what I work on with people all the time, for goodness sake. We’ve all experienced it.

When you’re in the middle of something that gets the adrenalin going, the only thing is to be in the present, accepting the situation as it is, breathing and living it – holding on to the intention to stay in the here and now. It makes all the difference when you can. It’s the only way to listen well; the only way to pick up what’s really happening; the only way to use your full intelligence and respond mindfully.

At the Brahma Kumaris yoga centres, quiet music plays for one minute on the hour every hour – a reminder to return to yourself, to check in and see if mind, heart and spirit are still occupied in the way you want them to be. It’s a gentle effective system for becoming present again – I really like it. Try it one day if you like by setting up a gentle hourly alarm on your mobile.

I turn to Rumi for inspiration, and as usual he has something helpful to say:

This now is it. Your deepest need and desire
is satisfied by this moment’s energy
here in your hand.

Thanks, Rumi, that’s what I wanted to write about!

 

Also to share …

Coaching with Compassion – Sun. 9 Oct – London

Another great event in the Spirit of Coaching series, hosted by the Brahma Kumaris in London – 2.00-5.30pm.

An opportunity to explore the depth and meaning of compassion and the important role it can play in the coaching process.  For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development.

It’s free, but you need to register here. I’ll be there – hope to meet you.

My Books

The Art of Conversation
No one ever taught us the art of conversation – no wonder many of us struggle. Change your life with confident communication.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
The practical answer to the fears and anxieties of presenting, speaking in meetings and expressing yourself when the going gets tough. 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
Discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence     “The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

Do you struggle to know what you say when you meet someone new? Or do you feel that you babble on and sound shallow or childish? Or do you sometimes find yourself stumbling, where others seem to converse so comfortably? Then try this e-course – free to download here.

Try some of my other E-courses too (I never share your email with anyone):
10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP

Coaching

Coaching is for anyone and everyone. I hear from leaders in organisations who want to air ideas and solve problems, executives who wish to polish their skills, unemployed people who want to get back into the market, people who feel in a rut. Lots of reasons, but all wanting the same thing – to move forward and be the best of themselves. Maybe it’s time for you to take that step? A few sessions of coaching are affordable and potentially life changing. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Training Courses

Would your company benefit from a group session on voice, communicating, presenting, NLP or coaching? Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

“Today, like every other day”

A few lines by the poet Rumi, from the collection on my website:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Thanks to those of you that get in touch – it’s good to hear from you.

Go well,

Judy

judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

 

 

 

What’s the Job of a Coach?

golden-statue-of-hero-riding-horse-2701x1986_101722 (1)When planning my old website my designer decided to make the subject headings gold – I quite liked it. When I tried to replicate the tone in my newsletters I discovered that the colour that appears as gold on screen is in fact a dirty yellow/ochre/brown colour. It just deceives the eye into thinking it’s gold.

When you think about it, even when you see a gold object in real life, its golden glitter is not intrinsic, but the result of reflected light – its glow is not inside it, as it were. If you want that, you need a source of light. Gold objects are not sources of light.

I was pondering this after coaching someone the other day. Sometimes, as coaches we are asked to polish a person’s golden image – i.e. to enhance their persona.

Let me explain. The client tells you that he (or she of course – I’ll carry on with ‘he’ for now) wants to achieve a particular outcome, and seeks your help to achieve it. The GROW model of coaching describes the process quite well – here’s one version:

What’s your Goal?

What’s your current Reality?

What are the Obstacles stopping you from reaching your goal? And then, what are your Options for dealing with these?

Finally, what is the Way Forward? What Will you do, by when?

Let’s say the client has come to me with the goal of ‘walking his talk’ as a leader – of coming across more powerfully. People who have inner power and confidence tend to speak in a deeper voice, stand tall and balanced, and look at their listeners. So – to put it simply – I help the client with voice, deportment and eye contact. He then looks and sounds powerful enough to convince quite a lot of people quite a lot of the time. But not all the people all the time. It’s hard to put your finger on it exactly, but there’s something artificial about the image – exactly that, in fact – it’s an image.

In working in this way, I’m helping the client to polish his personality and make it glitter like gold, rather than helping him shine with his own light from within. In so doing, I’m short-changing him.

Let’s imagine that this client – this leader – had a father who always told him he wasn’t good enough. Now in adulthood, however much he is promoted and treated with respect, there’s a small voice inside him that continues to whisper, “You’re not good enough.” That’s a pretty common scenario – you might even recognise it yourself. I can help him burnish his golden image till we’re both blue in the face but it won’t send the small negative voice away, and so he’ll never quite convince people of his leadership qualities. We see this in public figures all the time – the EU debate is a great place to look at the moment – there are those who play the role of powerful leader and those – far fewer I might add – who radiate moral power and genuine authority from a source within.

In order to do the latter, our client requires something different. I need to help him find his confidence and integrity inside, like a light within. And that means that I have to be capable of seeing the potential existence of that light within him, even when it’s obscured by a glittering reflection.

And for the client to see it too, it’s necessary for him to look beneath the glossy exterior and come face to face with himself – face to face with timidity or vulnerability or fear. Once that demon is faced – and incidentally it’s scarcely ever a real demon but only a shadow on the wall – then the person is able to step up to real authority and leadership, and convince with his authenticity. As wise old Rumi tells us, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

What is the glossy exterior, this glittering reflection that wants to create smoke and mirrors and reflect glory and power? It’s the ego.  But as coach, I know that a person’s real power – their source of light – is revealed when in coaching we go underneath the gloss to their authentic values and knowledge of self.

We coaches don’t achieve that aim all the time. When we do, that’s the real deal; that’s what we’re here to do.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. Rumi

 

Coaching

Have you thought about finding a coach? If you haven’t experienced good coaching before, speak to someone who has. It’s extraordinary how in a surprisingly short time you can achieve results that transform your life, and stick. Whether you lack confidence for an interview or change of direction, are stuck in a work or close relationship, can’t find your way forward or want to be more effective in your work and relationships, coaching can achieve successful lasting change for you.

I offer one-to-one coaching both to executives a senior level and to people from every walk of life. It’s quite usual to book a series of 6 coaching sessions, either face-to-face or by video or Skype. I also offer one-off sessions to boost your confidence and skill for a particular conference speech or an important interview.

Don’t hold back if you’re looking for support in some area of your life – I can probably offer a solution that will suit you.

My books

Why not start off by buying one of my books – widely available – and then contact me with any questions you may have.

The Art of Conversation

– Change Your Life with Confident Communication. My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

– 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. This book is highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

– How to Get People to Love to Listen to You. People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!

Speaking and training

Though not running my open courses this year, I’m still public speaking and training, so do get in touch under either of those headings.

Other Links

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Western World by Iain Gilchrist is a startling and important book – several centimetres thick! – that describes the tension between two fundamentally different ways of being and thinking in the world today. Iain has now brought out The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning – a 10,000 word summary of his original book – fascinating stuff, easily accessible and well worth a read.

Another interesting read for coaches – and others – is Insight Dialogue: the Interpersonal Path to Freedom by Gregory Kramer – brings insights from interpersonal meditation that can prove valuable in coaching.

A Poem

Finally a poem by D H Lawrence on the subject of ego.  You can find other favourite poems on my website here.

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper.

Do contact me at info@voiceofinfluence.co.uk if you have questions or comments about any of the above.

Enjoy the long June days,
Go well,

Judy

Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

FANTASTIC E-BOOK OFFER

 – this week-end only, 11 March to Mon morning 14 March

Just £1 for each of my books published by Crown House – for this week-end only, available from today, Friday till Monday morning, 14 March.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms offer here

– 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence. “If you’ve ever faced the fear of public speaking, this brilliant book is essential reading! Judy Apps provides super strategies for becoming a confident communicator. Her easy-to-learn and thorough approach tackles every aspect of speaking with great examples, stories and exercises.” Arielle Essex, author, Compassionate Coaching

Voice of Influence offer here

– Get People to Love to Listen to You.A book on speaking which focuses mainly on a person’s confidence to project themselves through the power of speech. The “blurb” promises a lot but I can assure the reader that the book delivers exactly what it says “on the tin”. Judy’s work is worthy of the greatest attention. Just love it! ” Ronnie Steele

I want to spread the word of this great offer, so feel free to share my messages here on Twitter or Facebook, or forward this newsletter to your friends. Thanks!

 

 

Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

IMGP1427

Last summer I wrote down
some words from Thomas Leonard
that caught my attention. 

This spring, I began to
understand them.

What happened in between?

What happened? Well, certainly no study of the words – I didn’t look at them again till just now. No, life happened.

The life that happened was a lot of back and leg pain over six months – bad enough to cause me to cancel almost all work. Looking back to last autumn, I was feeling angry about certain things and anxious about others. Then work stopped, life stopped, and I had plenty of time to ruminate – think, feel, meditate, whatever you might call it – about all sorts of things.

One of the first things I was reminded of was how much life is coloured by your state of mind. Life looks dark when you feel bad, just as it sparkles when you feel happy. Or, as Anaïs Nin and others before her have said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

I was familiar with that concept, but I was completely dumbfounded by the obvious corollary – just how much everything can change in every way when you are different. During my ‘inactive’ time I started to think and feel differently, and then awoke one day to realise that my anger had entirely gone, and that I wasn’t anxious any more, even though the triggers for those feelings hadn’t gone away.

I have to tell you that this isn’t my normal modus operandi – I’m well schooled in the idea that change doesn’t happen without conscious effort, and I don’t include doing very little in that phrase.

What I found was that the more I did ‘nothing’, the more my negative feelings dissipated and the more I felt myself. It was that old story mentioned by wise people through the ages – of losing yourself to find yourself. I’d read it and understood it, but nothing really comes home till you experience it yourself, does it?

So, Thomas Leonard … ? A remarkable coach and human being. He founded the ICF – the International Coach Federation – though most members of this august body have probably never heard of him. You can still get his early fascinating book, ‘The Portable Coach’, out of print now. He died in 2003. When I came across his writing again recently, I realised that he were saying in a different way just the same thing I’d been struggling with over the months. So here are his words – he entitles them “Absence of You”. I hope you like them as much as I do, challenging as they are.

          How does one become transparent?

  1. Stop seeking approval, acknowledgement, validation, reinforcement, agreement, respect, appreciation, self worth or self esteem from anyone for any reason.
  2. Stop trying to impress anyone for any reason
  3. Give up any notion that you’re an expert at anything
  4. Be interested instead of interesting
  5. Live well above the mundane matters of life (all the stupid little agros)
  6. Stop letting risk and fear limit your life experience
  7. Lighten up how you learn
  8. Have very few needs, financial or otherwise
  9. Simplify your life, perhaps dramatically
  10. Stop needing outcomes 

Go well!

Judy

judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

Art of Conversation – Amazon Deal!

WOWEE! HUGE discount on 1 January only!

My book “The Art of Conversation” is part of Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deal on 1 January. On 1 January ONLY click here. – special price on that day only!

The Art of Conversation

Conversation … Unlock the joys of connecting

Why is it some of us are stuck for words, but others blabber on? Why do we sometimes find ourselves stumbling, where others seem to converse so comfortably? Good conversational skills can transform every aspect of your world. The simplest conversation can hold a hidden thread of the most intimate and fulfilling connection…if you know the secret.

  • Learn simple methods for being heard and understood.
  • Overcome fear; find out how to break the silence and keep a conversation going
  • Explore different levels of communication – from the mysteries of everyday small talk to deeper heartfelt human connections.
  • Hold your own in tricky situations.  More …

Click this link on 1 January only! (Top row, scroll left).

 

Stuck in the Magic Circle?

I read about a gypsy custom of drawing a circle around their children to keep them safe if they have to be left for a while. The adult explains to the child that it’s a magic circle which he cannot leave. The gypsy child believes he can’t leave it, and – believing it – it’s true, he can’t! (from Everyday Oshogreat to dip into …)

A similar idea has been used for centuries to control elephants – have you ever wondered why they never try to break free? The mahout secures a baby elephant with a chain attached to a stake driven into the ground and it cannot break free. It carries that belief into adulthood and so never tests the chain again – even though as an adult elephant its 5,000 kilo bulk could snap the chain in a trice. It is chained by its belief.

Or – one more example – the fish tank experiment. A big fish was put in a tank, divided by a glass pane from a small fish, its favourite food. Time and again the big fish went for the small fish, but always smashed into the glass. Then the pane of glass was removed, but the big fish never again attempted to eat the small fish. It always remembered – and so believed – that it couldn’t.

 

To what extent are we limited by outmoded beliefs ourselves? More than we like to think, I suspect. In humans, limitations often work something like this:

The ‘Logical’ response

“I can’t.”

“Why can’t you?” (often asked by someone else, but we ask ourselves too.)

The question ‘why?’ sets up a call to our logical brain. We search for the why and come up with valid-sounding reasons. (By the way, our left brain is very good at this.)

“I can’t progress at work because I’m not the pushy sort.”

“I can’t learn because I’m stupid.”

“I can’t make relationships work because I was abused as a child.”

The reasons justify. But they are just circles that other people have helped to draw around us.

The ‘can’t’ itself is actually triggered by a feeling – of overwhelm, undeserving, hopelessness, or – the root of them all – fear. We feel the feeling; it’s too uncomfortable, so we suppress it; and then we search for reasons, and come up with a rationalisation after the event. That’s the definition of an excuse, however much we believe our own thinking.

Overwhelm response

The bad feeling is especially powerful because, like a snowball picking up snow as it rolls down a hill, it gathers to itself all the resonances of similar feelings from other times and places in our lives, including early childhood. We then have a giant ball of feeling that creates universalised assumptions:

“I’ve never been able to do this.”

“I always mess up in this way.”

“I’ll never master this.”

“I’ll always be hopeless.”

With thoughts such as these all effort does indeed seem useless. This is a highly effective way to stay stuck. It’s a powerful contributor to why articulate adults continue to freeze when asked to speak in public; why some children go through 10+ years of school and never learn to read; why people who stutter continue to block; why children given a bad start fail to thrive even with help. If as teachers and coaches we don’t pay attention to such emotionally-fixed beliefs, results will always be sporadic and uncertain.

Positive response

Beliefs are persistent because once originally learnt we hand them over to our subconscious where they act autonomously out of our conscious control. But, treated kindly and gently, they can shift. If you are able to pause when you feel the bad feeling, and say to yourself –

Yes, I’m feeling bad, but feeling bad is not the whole of me, and it doesn’t limit me.

– you can work your way through the feeling to a more resourceful frame of mind. It helps to keep breathing!

An example

I get a hopeless feeling sometimes on the computer. I can’t get something to work and get a rush of the following:

“This is boring boring boring. I haven’t got time for this.”

“I’m hopeless with all technology, always have been, always will be.”

Those who know me might tell you that I then stomp off in a huff! But if I don’t, if instead I register the bad feeling and accept it, and say to myself –

Yes, I’m feeling bad, but feeling bad is not the whole of me, and it doesn’t limit me

– I can then often think of one little step to take and then maybe another and then another to tackle my problem. And I’m surprised how frequently – when I do that – I solve my difficulty.

When you get that overwhelming negative feeling, press the pause button. Breathe, and say to yourself, “This isn’t the whole of me; this feeling doesn’t have to limit me”, and take one small positive step. This often leads to another small step. It’s amazing what becomes possible.

99.9% of the time I’m less limited than I imagine myself to be. What about you?

Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly. Richard Bach

 

NEWS

Voice of Influence Workshop 20-21 October, London

Discovering how to speak with confidence usually involves tackling outmoded beliefs. People have so much more potential than they believe they do. In these two days in a small group – gently and with quite a bit of laughter – you find your voice, your confidence and your skill as a public speaker. Then you have an ability that will have a positive effect on many aspects of your life, and last you a lifetime! Have a look at a few testimonials from previous participants.

To book, or find out more, click here.

Great voice and speaking tips most days here

And on Twitter!

Highly recommended

Cocomotion

In a world where we hear so much bad news, it’s great to mention friends and colleagues who are doing amazing things – e.g. Griff Griffiths. Have a look at Cocomotion, a highly innovative social change network. They were ODN Europe Community Development Award winners 2014 this year.

‘NLP in The Wild’

Judith Lowe, an experienced and innovative NLP trainer, is doing some very interesting stuff at the moment. Join her next artistic adventure in London on 12 September! More details and booking here. You might also be interested in her shared Passion in Action Resident Weekend: ‘Social Change, Leadership and Contribution with NLP’ 5-7 December 2014.

My latest book, The Art of Conversation published by Capstone

The Art of Conversation shows you how to converse skilfully and enjoyably with other people at home, at work, on the phone and in the street.  Discover the difference good conversation can make in every aspect of your life.

  • Overcome fear; find out how to break the silence and keep the conversation going
  • Learn how to be heard and understood
  • Understand the different types of conversation and how they work
  • Find out how to hold a conversation in tricky situations, including how to disagree, how to speak to those in authority and people you find difficult
  • Use conversation to form relationships, improve friendships, make the sale, learn, influence and have some of the best times of your life.

10 Top Tips for Conversation

Read my article of mastering the art of conversation in Business Works.

Beat performance fear with Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

“How many times have you picked up a self-help book and thought, `It`s all very well but it won’t work for me`? This time the book meets you where you are and helps you to succeed by approaching the problem on many different levels.”

And two great books on voice and speaking skills

Voice of Influence: How to Get People to Love to Listen to You

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

 

September already. Always feels like a new start. Go well!

 

Judy

 

True North

In the zone

I did really well! No, really, I was brilliant. I was speaking to a group and everything was flowing; they were listening and super-attentive and clearly enjoying what I had to say – you could almost hear the proverbial pin drop. They talk about ‘being in the zone’, don’t they? Well, there was I!

Afterwards I thought about how I’d achieved it. I analysed my performance, and considered each element of it – How had I been reasoning and thinking, what had I been doing with my voice, my body, my hands, my balance, what had I been aware of, how had I been feeling?

Not good! The next time I tried to replicate my success through thinking of the separate elements, I got self-conscious and confused and completely lost it.

I read a calendar quote this week: The less I think about doing something the faster I am able to get it done.

Is it true?

How to beat your opponent every time

Tim Gallwey in his brilliant first book, The Inner Game of Tennis, describes the perfect way to put an opponent off his stroke: you congratulate him on how well he’s playing and make him think about what exactly he’s doing.  He then begins to tell you as he performs about how he’s swinging the racquet and hitting the ball in front of him, and keeping his wrist firm and following through – all the separate elements … and before you know it he has lost his timing and flow and begins to fall apart.

The poet Rumi, writing about 800 years ago, said something very similar about doing and thinking:

The throbbing vein
Will take you further
Than any thinking.

…Do not theorize
about essence. All speculations
are just more layers of covering
Human beings love coverings.

‘Do not theorise about.’

But I can hear someone saying to themselves, “Okay that’s great, but so what? If I can’t examine my behaviour to learn from it, how do I learn?”

A great way to achieve success

I’m beginning to think that we’re a bit too keen on analytical method. It’s fine and useful in many activities, but in some cases it isn’t as effective as a more holistic approach, especially when we’re talking about human behaviour.

Rumi talks about a form of intelligence that is less static and analytical than reason:

        It’s fluid,
And it does not move from outside to inside
Through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
The second knowing is a fountainhead
From within you, moving out.

You’ll recognise such intelligence when for instance you suddenly go ‘aha!’ and capture something in its entirety, without building up the pieces bit by bit, and what you capture is more rich and subtle than the sum of the individual elements.

A great and pleasurable way to learn is through awareness in the moment without analysis. You aim to stay in the here and now, to do while staying present and aware, rather than reason about doing. This was Tim Gallwey’s tennis method which morphed into big-C Coaching. You just notice with subtle pleasure and gentle awareness the feeling of energy and movement when things are going well. That’s your true north.

And the quick way?

There’s a neat shortcut: enjoyment. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re probably on track. Rumi’s ‘plumbing-learning’ can involve slog and effort; enjoyment doesn’t – and you learn faster and better. Enjoyment is never about what you do – rather it’s doing, enjoying, being, living: the zing of being in the moment. The more you acknowledge and enjoy what you are doing, the more you grow into and embody the skills involved.

Business case

The enjoyment factor is applicable to work too. If your people or team aren’t enjoying their work, beware – you are already losing ¾ of the full intelligence they have to offer. Enjoyment doesn’t mean relaxing – it can be a great workout, mentally, emotionally and physically – but it’s engaging and energising. We motivate people best through attraction towards enjoyment and fulfilment, not by whipping them. Then you get 100% – maybe even 110.

That’s flow, in my book.

 

COACHING, COURSES AND OTHER STUFF

The People’s Book Prize Shortlist – please help!

I’m excited! My book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms has been short-listed for The People’s Book Prize Non-Fiction which is voted for by the public, and I’ve been invited to attend a grand dinner in the City when the overall winner will be announced.

Please will you vote for me? (if you like my book of course!). Voting for finalists is between 21 and 29 May at http://www.peoplesbookprize.com/. You can register on the website now and vote later. (NB registration is purely to ensure voting’s fair and doesn’t sign you up for unwanted emails). The website only allows you to vote for the final winner between May 21-29, so I might remind you again closer to the date!

Autumn Course Dates now available

Thinking about learning and enjoyment, here are some written comments all from the 11 participants on last Thursday and Friday’s Voice of Influence workshop. I include them here to encourage you if you are daunted or don’t really enjoy public speaking – it could be you next time!

The workshop was amazing. I think it was definitely the most useful two days of learning that I have ever attended in my career to date. I finally got over what seemed to be an insurmountable hurdle. Everyone who has ever worried about speaking in public should do this course! I will be recommending it to my colleagues, my boss and HR.

I’m so excited to report that on Monday … I leapt to my feet in front of 40 odd people …without a hint of nerves or self-consciousness!  All down to you, thank you.

An invaluable two days.  I wish I had done it years ago!

Nothing had ever helped me “get my head straight” or given me any techniques to manage my nerves or voice.  In just two days on Voice of Influence, I have overcome my performance anxiety, can manage my voice and am actually looking forward to my next opportunity to present formally! 

Really helped with my confidence. Fantastic course – would recommend it to a friend. FANTASTIC AND WORTHWHILE!!!

Such a breakthrough. Excellent +++ experience. 

I experienced a rise in confidence not just with my voice but my overall presence and the way I perceive myself when around other people. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.

I wanted to be at ease, bring humour and be more myself: I think I sort of did that. Great experience!

Totally engaging and credible. An experience I’m very pleased to have had – not a minute was wasted. I almost felt comfortable standing in front of people for the first time

One step closer to being in me more. You absolutely practice what you preach. I appreciate your honesty and directness too. I hope that many more people will get to benefit from what you have to give. Very positive and enjoyable.

Well … to achieve a stand-up speech in front of 12 people in 2 days! Considering the shut down I experience weekly. Can’t believe it! Challenging but supported completely every step. … Life changing experience.

NEXT VOICE OF INFLUENCE WORKSHOP  – 17-18 Sept

One after that 12-13 Dec. Book for either workshop online here or email me to reserve a place. Is now the right time for you?

NLP DIPLOMA

Many people who attend the Voice of Influence can’t wait to do more of this kind of learning. The NLP Diploma builds confidence and self-belief and gives you strong practical leadership and coaching skills, plus loads of valuable insights into yourself and other people. It makes a deep-down difference that impacts on everything you do. Attend these workshops and I promise you’ll never look back.

There are three 2-day modules, which you can take separately if you prefer. Book on-line (links below) or email me at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk. Big reduction for booking all three.

Communication & Relationships 17-18 Oct

Leadership & Influence 7-8 Nov

Coaching & Change 28-29 Nov

I can sometimes offer a discount for people who genuinely cannot afford the fee.

OTHER STUFF

Free Learning: E-courses on NLP, Confidence, Voice and more at judyapps.co.uk

Books: Find my 3 books on voice and confidence at Judy Apps on Amazon

Free daily tips and inspiration: follow me on FaceBook and Twitter

Coaching: 1-to-1 coaching, face-to-face or by telephone/Skype. If you’re stuck or uncertain, in transition, or just want to be the best you can be, coaching works. Contact me at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk or on +44 1306 886114 to have a chat about it.

That’s it!  Go well, enjoy the sunshine!

Judy

 

 

 

Thoughts from Sydney

Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

“It stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind.” UNESCO Committee report

There are few 20th century designs that have so caught the public imagination all over the world. I did a tour of the Opera House last week and was interested to learn that the architect of this amazing building almost wasn’t.

Over 200 architects, many of them well known, submitted plans for the international design competition for the new Opera House in 1956. A little known young Danish architect, Jorg Utzon, to his surprise, won the commission, but only due to a last minute intervention by one of the judges, Eero Saarinen. Saarinen appeared late, after the jury had already rejected many entries. He insisted on going through the rejects for himself. and, finding Utzon’s scheme among them, pulled it out and returned to the jury announcing: “Gentlemen, this is the first prize.” His persuasiveness convinced the other judges.

Now, if Utzon had not won – and he won by a curious circumstance – would his origial design of this ‘masterpiece of human creativity’ have been less distinguished? Hardly.

Yet, have you ever been rejected for something, and decided that the rejection meant you were inadequate? Yes? I have too.

It’s funny how we do that … Rejection means inadequacy. Fear means disaster. Mistake means failure. Most of us do an awful lot of ‘A means B’ in life.

But some people don’t do that.

Grand Slam tennis star Roger Federer was regularly eliminated in the first round of tournaments as a teenager, but kept working on his game.

The great French sculptor, Auguste Rodin – failed 3 times to get into art school and worked for 20 years as a mere craftsman and decorator – but didn’t give up.

Shultz of the Charlie Brown cartoons was rejected as an animator by Walt Disney, but carried on drawing.

Marwan Zebian and Ron Burr, the entrepreneurs who had the idea of offering free internet access were rejected 37 times, but fortunately tried a 38th potential investor who supported the venture.

You probably have examples of your own, and there are more on the internet.

And you? Have you had a recent rejection. If so, how might the story go next if you refuse to make an instant link with inadequacy?

***

There was another interesting moment in my tour around the Opera House and that was the discovery that when they started to build the vast project nobody knew exactly if  the design could be built. Yet start they did.

Utson believed the construction was possible, but had not worked out exactly how the giant roof sails were to be built. For 5 years, the best engineers researched many different methods, involving complicated mathematics, and still an answer could not been found.

Finally at the eleventh hour, with the giant plynth built and ready for the sail construction, Utson had an idea. He suddenly realized that all the different sail shapes could be constructed from a basic half-sphere, like segments of an orange. Thus the curve on every sail could be identical, and therefore the basic ribs and the millions of curved tiles could be produced in quantity off-site, saving a considerable amount of money. And that’s how the building went ahead.

How many times do you put off starting something because you can’t quite see the end?  Start! There will be further enlightening views around the next corner.

As you start to walk out on the way,
the way appears.
Rumi

So, one of the greatest buildings in the world was built to its unique design by a whisker, and was started without a solution to a major part of the plan. Crazy but true. Don’t you love stories like that?

Resurrect those projects  you haven’t as yet quite had courage for – one of them is probably ready to fly.

NEWS

Voice of Influence Workshop, 25-26 April

If you want to find your voice and your inner confidence and speak in every situation with assurance and ease, then go to judyapps.co.uk and book your place on this 2-day course now. This is my last Voice Workshop before autumn and as numbers are strictly limited there are just two places left.

The courses are in London. You can book online, or download a booking form to send to me. More details on the website too, or contact me if you want to talk through your situation with me.

Spirit of Coaching: How to Be Happy in Challenging Times

Sunday afternoon, 14 April, 2 – 5.30. Register at http://www.bkwsu.org/uk/whatson/national-events. Robert Holden will be speaking.

Happiness is a spiritual path. The more you learn about true happiness, the more you discover the truth of who you are, what is important, and what your life is for.  Robert Holden

These free events are always ispiring. I’m going – see you there?

E-Courses to download free from judyapps.co.uk

  • 10 Secrets of Overcoming Performance Anxiety
  • How to Speak with More Authority
  • How to Raise Your Profile
  • An Introduction to NLP

My book Voice & Speaking Skills For Dummies is at its best price ever on Amazon: Currently only £10 – 40% off.

It has an audio CD in the back too to help you. My other books are available on Amazon too.

Daily Speaking Tips & Inspiration facebook.com/JudyAppsVoice.

Have you been to my FaceBook page yet?  Daily voice and confidence tips and curiosities. Facebook.com/JudyAppsVoice. I’d love a ‘like’ if you visit the page!

Australia has been brilliant. I’m back in the UK on Saturday. Have a great Easter week-end!

Judy

PS If  you have friends who might be interested, please feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

 

In Between